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Journal Articles PS: Political Science and Politics Year : 2006

The French Referendum : the not so simple act of saying nay

Sylvain Brouard


For the second time in the history of the French Vth Republic, the first having led to the resignation of Charles De Gaulle in 1969, a president lost a national referendum. On May 29, 2005, 54.7% of French voters rejected the European Constitutional Treaty, even though France was one of the major proponents of the European Convention which led to the Constitution's drafting. The victory of the “no” vote had been foreseen, but neither the margin of victory, nor the high turnout (almost 70.5%) were expected. The rejection of the Constitution raised two concerns: the first related to the position of France in Europe, the second to its domestic impact. Why did the French electorate vote as it did? Did voters make up their minds based on national cues, the European issue being generally of little importance even in European elections (Franklin, Marsh, and McLaren 1994; Van der Eijk and Franklin 1996)? Is the referendum result the consequence of a growing anti-European attitude, which could cause considerable damage to the process of EU integration? Will a new cleavage grounded on attitudes to Europe and capable of altering the traditional left-right organization emerge in the French political system?Our warmest thanks to our colleagues, Chantal Barry, Arianne Chebel d'Appolonia, and Manlio Cinnalli for their remarks on and their help with this piece.

Dates and versions

hal-03416023 , version 1 (05-11-2021)



Sylvain Brouard, Vincent Tiberj. The French Referendum : the not so simple act of saying nay. PS: Political Science and Politics, 2006, 39 (2), pp.261-268. ⟨10.1017/S1049096506060409⟩. ⟨hal-03416023⟩
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